How can we navigate the constantly changing environment and the future? I think you will agree with me that the last two-and-a-half years have been the most intense and unpredictable years of our entire lives, putting all of us through physical, emotional and mental experiences that we had never lived through before.

I live in Australia, and my conversations with clients across Asia have revolved around responding to unprecedented turnover rates and workforce management strategies. Companies need to renew their focus on employee well-being and create a more transparent, authentic message.

Rather than trying to recreate the past in a new shape, why not focus on how we lead in the future with compassion and purpose?

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The global context: We’re all connected

Worldwide, people struggle—employees and employers alike. Businesses are accelerating their digital transformations. Supply chains are destabilized and vulnerable; people have left their jobs in record numbers globally, and now there is the war in Ukraine.

In this context, people at all corporate levels are on edge. On the one hand, demands on the C-suite have surpassed anything that leaders have ever prepared for through crisis scenarios or playbooks. On the other, employees are exhausted, after functioning at full capacity both on the work and personal front for the past two years. Many are also grieving.

And against this already challenging background, the disconnect between leadership and employees’ experience at work has also been deepening. Leaders often nostalgically look back towards a more stable, “normal” past—including a return to the office—while employees worry about the now and next, reevaluating their work-life balance, how and where they want to work, and the values that motivate them to go to work.

Asia Pacific workforce has low job satisfaction 

Asia Pacific is also affected by the global trends that put stress on people’s lives, but in addition, work culture shows differences. Our Better to Belong research indicates that job satisfaction is strongly influenced by a culture that fosters having a sense of belonging at work. We define belonging at work based on several categories, including career opportunities, psychological safety, and respect from peers and superiors.

And when it came to belonging, Asia Pacific scored significantly lower than North America, United Kingdom or Latin America. Overall, when compared to global peers, Asia Pacific employees scored about 10% lower when asked whether they felt they belonged at work.

Asia Pacific workers scored the lowest in terms of feeling that they had agency in making decisions and the respect of their peers, and Japan scored the lowest in all belonging categories. In fact, 68% of Japanese employees reported unhappiness on the job, which placed Japan in last place of all the 11 countries that we surveyed on job satisfaction. The United Kingdom followed at quite a significant gap with 51% dissatisfied employees, while the United States reported 54% dissatisfied employees.

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When compared to global peers, Asia Pacific employees scored about 10% lower when reporting workplace belonging. 

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3 critical questions for Asia Pacific companies to ask

1.  What is the work culture that Asia Pacific companies need to embrace so that people understand and relate to how business is done and why they go to work?

Job satisfaction is correlated with belonging at work, and belonging at work is closely connected to the culture companies have: are they focused on their people and ensuring that their needs are met? This is what we call leaving people net better off. To improve job satisfaction, companies in Asia Pacific, need to recenter their cultures on people. Leaving people net better off needs to become top of mind for companies in Asia Pacific. This means taking care of people to leave them employable, financially stable, mentally and emotionally safe, physically safe, answering a purpose, and having great relations with others. For some companies, this may imply a new approach and focus on culture transformation. Since they are transforming at a different pace than their European or North American counterparts, companies in Asia Pacific can look at HR lessons learned in Europe and North America. They can leapfrog when correcting course and build cultures that make people feel like they belong.

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2.  How can Asia Pacific companies create and communicate a clear message on the importance of caring for their people and of having a positive impact on the world through their business?

In Asia Pacific, leaders will need to revisit the messaging around their company’s vision and purpose, focusing on how it responds to pressing issues in the world. Then, together with their various stakeholders, they can craft clear messages to communicate in an authentic way that resonates with their people. This will help leaders align with their employees and gain their trust, which is vital in the current environment, where belonging at work has gained even more importance globally. People are motivated by their every-day experiences more than by sheer financial rewards and they want employers to leave them net better off. On their side, leaders can unlock up to 5x more human potential by creating an inclusive environment where each person feels like they belong every day.

3. How can Asia Pacific companies support people to learn new skills that are necessary to make the transition to future roles and multiple careers?

Because there is no one-size--fits-all in Asia Pacific as a region or in individual companies, workforce interventions need to consider the needs and desires of different employee segments or generations. Each company needs to understand the needs of its unique workforce, by first assessing its composition and then identifying what motivates each group. Companies should know where their workforce gaps are and create skilling opportunities. They should also design a future workforce strategy that can ensure workforce continuity, include succession plans, and attract new, competitive workers, especially in the digital space.

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The way forward

Undoubtedly, we are going through an unprecedented time of disruption. As a result, people are reexamining their lives and the way they can have an impact on the world. More and more, people in the workforce have started to look at the way in which their work aligns with their life aspirations and values. If companies in Asia Pacific want to stay competitive, they also need to go through this introspective process and identify how they align their purpose and their culture with what prospective and current employees seek.

See more Workforce insights.

See more posts from Gaston

Gastón Carrión

Managing Director – Global Natural Resources Talent & Organization/Human Potential Lead

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